Lindsey Stirling, the dancing violinist sensation who’s proving Piers Morgan wrong
- Credit: Archant
Shamed off America’s Got Talent, dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling is winning fans through her dorky charm and Mormon sensibilities, discovers Alex Bellotti.
In the next edition of the Collins English Dictionary, the word ‘adorkable’ will make its quite ridiculous debut. A truncation of the phrase ‘adorable dork’, it was popularised and voted into the English lexicon by Twitter users and, as a result, shares more than a few parallels with the phenomenon of Lindsey Stirling.
Sweet, dynamic and goofy enough to dress up as Game of Thrones characters for videos, when Stirling first stepped onto the stage of America’s Got Talent back in 2010, she captured hearts with her carefree, strictly adorkable blend of violin-playing and dance. After being booted ungraciously off the show during the quarter-finals however, she – like the word – found favour through the internet to startling effect.
As of this moment, the 28-year-old has clocked up over 700 million views on YouTube and has 5,586,930 subscribers to her channel (for perspective, Lady Gaga has 709,936; Adele has 281,603).
Her song Crystallize – a typical example of her classical crossover with electronic, dance and hip-hop – alone has over 100 million views. For further convincing, it was the eighth most viewed YouTube video in 2012, beating the stratospheric space jump of astronaut Felix Baumgartner.
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Whatever way you look at it, Stirling has arrived as a star of the technological age. Considering her show tonight (Thursday) at the Kentish Town Forum sold out weeks ago, she’s also done so on an international level.
As a devout Mormon and someone who once struggled with anorexia though, she’s aware that her newfound stardom comes with responsibility and is determined to show that rock ‘n’ roll’s corrosive reputation needn’t always apply.
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“I’ve heard celebrities before say, ‘I’m not a role model and it’s not my job to be a role model,’” Stirling explains. “Even before I was in the spotlight at all, I’ve always disagreed with that because millions of people are looking up to these celebrities and that’s part of the price of their position.
“It is a responsibility because people watch and do what you do and I hope young girls can get some good out of what I do – or young boys, you know, whatever.”
Currently touring her second album, Shatter Me, and soon to support legendary tenor Andrea Bocelli on a series of winter dates, Stirling has rarely been happier and places much of this down to her religious lifestyle which has kept her “protected” and free of drama on the road.
Born in California, she grew up nurturing such beliefs alongside four siblings and her parents in a modest household in Gilbert, Arizona. With money tight, at the age of five she was given the choice of either violin or dance lessons; although she picked the former, it proved the start of a lifelong attempt to combine the two to dazzling and often dizzying effect.
She honed her act performing at anywhere she could, be it at open mic nights or in canteens full of bewildered college students during lunch. Looking back, she admits “many people would call that embarrassing but I just loved what I did and had such a vision. I knew what I could be and nothing that anyone else said was going to deter me.”
During her spell on America’s Got Talent four years ago, however, her attempts to juggle virtuosic violin with increasingly elaborate dance routines and outfits drew criticism from judges including Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne.
“From my personal perspective from when I was up there on stage, I felt like they felt sorry for me. I felt like they thought it was not a very good performance, they thought I was a nice girl and they all felt kind of sorry for me.
“They didn’t understand me. Piers Morgan, to quote him, he said I sounded like drowned rats being strangled, which is not a very nice thing to say to anybody.
“That was kind of the biggest take-away I had from that, thinking, ‘Wow, that was humiliating – I just got rebuked on public TV in front of millions of people’, and it was either ‘I have to quit’ or ‘I need to get better’ because I never want to go through that again.”
Get better she did. After a period in which she “jumped back to square one”, Stirling teamed up with cinematographer Devin Graham to produce a video for her 2012 song, Spontaneous Me.
It proved the start of a YouTube sensation which led to the musician being picked up by Lady Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter, and recording two albums which to this day have sold over half a million records in the US alone.
“No one up to this point had been able to capture the vision of what I wanted to do,” Stirling adds. “I’d tried to show my style to record labels or talent agencies – no one got it. But here on YouTube no one had to get it apart from my fans.
“The internet is such an amazing place because the world is such a unique palette of so many different tastes and likes, and just because you’re not mainstream doesn’t mean there’s aren’t tonnes and tonnes of people who love what you do.”
Recently, the artist has given back to her devoted fans by opening up about the eating disorder she suffered during her younger years. She says it was important to talk about it at an appropriate time, but also because “a lot more people struggle with these things than we often realise and that people themselves even realise”.
She continues: “It took me a long time to discover what was making me so unhappy, but finally when I realised what the problem was, I felt so alone and I felt like no one could understand me.
“It gave me so much hope once I started to realise that this isn’t a freakish problem, that other people have this problem too, I’m not alone in this and that oh my gosh, there are people that can help me.”
The ultimate goal, the American concludes, is that she wants to show there is hope, that “just because you have a problem, it doesn’t mean you can’t become stronger as a result of it.”
Adorable? Dorky? It’s part of the charm, but there’s no doubt Stirling’s got steel. And as every new video she posts strikes another blow to Piers Morgan’s ego, who among us would stand in her way?
Lindsey Stirling plays The Forum tonight. Visit mamacolive.com/theforum